Young businesspeople in transactional banking

A few years ago, I was sitting at a Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT) conference with a fellow attendee. As we both looked around the room at other BAFT members, she remarked, "There’s a lot of gray hair in the room."

She was right. It was a sign that our industry – transactional banking – wasn’t doing enough to attract and retain young talent. Over dinner that evening with another BAFT colleague, we decided to address this issue. We planted the seeds for what would become – with the input and energy of many others – the BAFT Future Leaders program.

If you haven’t heard much about transactional banking, it typically provides services like domestic and cross-border (international) payments, risk mitigation for international trade and commercial banking for corporates and financial institutions. With billions of global transactions occurring every day, it’s a critical part of any business’ financial strategy.

The Future Leaders program, now in its second year, has encouraged dozens of potential future leaders to enter and stay in the transactional banking industry. The program breaks them up into teams to work on issues of importance to the industry.

It all stemmed from the perception that transactional banking needs more young talent. For anyone interested in pursuing such a career, let me share why I feel it’s a fulfilling path.

Seeing the direct impact

On a trip to the West Coast, I made a stop at a heavy machinery client’s factory. I was there to watch the team prepare a huge piece of equipment for shipment to the port and export to a distant Asian market. My bank had guaranteed payment by the foreign buyer’s bank, without which this huge piece of equipment would not have been built or sold. 

As I toured the facility, a worker laboring on the unit asked me what I was doing there. I wasn’t hard to spot. In this factory, I was the only person wearing a suit. I told him I was from the bank that was guaranteeing the foreign buyer’s payment. He then gathered the other workers around me, saying, "This is the banker that kept our families fed."

The reaction floored me. Sometimes you get glances at how your work affects others, but this was a direct look into how my bank’s solutions made a difference for these families. The work we were enabling meant more opportunity for them. It was a tangible, touching experience.

That’s the message I’ve been sending to young people interested in this industry: The work is important and personal. Being a part of creating and developing the BAFT Future Leaders program has helped bring this perspective to a new generation of bankers.

What to do if you’re interested

We started the BAFT Future Leaders program only a few years ago, but I’ve always enjoyed meeting and mentoring young leaders. For anyone who wonders about transactional banking, or wishes to pursue a career in it, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a message with your questions!

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Craig Weeks is international banking group executive at U.S. Bank.

Posted: May 8, 2017